Who Are We Honoring? Extending the Ebony & Ivy Discussion to Include Sport Facilities

in Journal of Sport Management
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  • 1 Ball State University
  • 2 Western Carolina University
  • 3 University of Louisville
  • 4 University of Florida
  • 5 Texas A&M University

One prominent, well-debated issue in the American higher education system is whether university officials should remove the names of individuals with racist pasts from campus buildings/structures that bear their namesake. The purpose of this study was to analyze basketball and football facilities at Division I Football Bowl Subdivision institutions to explore the racialized history of the people whom these facilities are named after. Utilizing a collective case study approach, the authors identified 18 facilities that were named after athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists who engaged in racist activities or harbored racist views. The authors argue, using critical race theory and systemic racism theory as interpretative lenses, that naming buildings after racist persons legitimizes their legacies, rationalizes systemic racism, and continues to unjustly enrich this particular group.

Issues surrounding race in sport continue to be one of the most important concerns facing managers of sport and leisure organizations (Cunningham, 2019; Cunningham & Fink, 2006). Although many universities are striving to embrace diversity and leave their sordid racist pasts behind, Wilder notes that “It is difficult to celebrate diversity while standing in front of buildings that are named after slave traders” (as quoted in Lee, 2015, para. 2). This contradiction led Wilder (2013) to author Ebony & Ivy, in which he discussed how the historical relationship between institutions of higher education and the slave trade subsequently perpetuated inequitable race relations in America. As time progressed, several universities, especially those in the American south, developed systems and traditions that honored their Confederate heritage or racist pasts (Follett, 2015). As institutions of higher education are also involved in the business of sport, racism has permeated into that space as well (Armstrong, 2011; Singer, 2005a). This permeation of racism into sport offers a stark contrast, echoed by Smith and Hattery (2011), to the idea that the sports world is a space in which racial harmony exists.

Kendi (2016) recently and poignantly noted how the University of Florida’s (UF) Stephen C. O’Connell Center is named after a former university president who once voted against integrating the law school. In an event dubbed “Black Thursday,” O’Connell had 67 Black students arrested or suspended for staging a peaceful protest in which they were seeking space on campus to create a Black Cultural Center. Amnesty requests for the student protesters were denied, which led to more than 100 Black students, faculty, and other supporters withdrawing from the UF. Ironically, several Black UF student-athletes routinely engage in athletic contests to this day in a building named after O’Connell. Zeigler (2007) asked sport managers to consider “what are we really promoting, and do we know why we are doing it?” (p. 301). By naming athletic facilities on college campuses after individuals with racist pasts, it could be argued that sport is promoting the racialized ideologies of those individuals, or at the very least legitimizing their legacies.

Thus, the purpose of this study was to not only identify college basketball and football facilities that are named after individuals with racist pasts, but also to better understand how the racialized histories of those persons are similar to and/or distinct from each other. Furthermore, we discuss the impact that continuing to honor those individuals may have on Black student-athletes and the Black campus community. To that end, the researchers conducted an analysis of the names of basketball and football athletic facilities found at those institutions. Our method involved compiling a list of athletic facilities at those programs and researching the backgrounds of those individuals who have had structures named after them. The prevalence of facilities—as well as plaques, monuments, and statutes—on college campuses named after/dedicated to slave owners, segregationists, and overt racists suggests that an examination of athletic facilities is both necessary and relevant to the field of sport management.

This examination aligns with Frisby’s (2005) charge to sport management scholars to conduct research aimed at promoting social change and challenging the dominant ways of thinking and acting that benefit those in positions of power. Our aim with this study was to address the challenge issued by Frisby for sport management scholars to critically analyze the bad and ugly sides of sport. Management studies in general have largely ignored the impact of chattel slavery and its legacy in shaping managerial practices in the United States (Cooke, 2003; Hayek, Novicevic, Humphreys, & Jones, 2010). We intentionally foreground these issues to better understand and to challenge this legacy in the field of sport management. Specifically, we embrace Singer’s (2005a) call to sport management scholars to interrogate how systems of White supremacy are embedded within the sport industry (e.g., intercollegiate athletics). Because sport management scholars and practitioners have moral and ethical obligations to ensure that the institution of sport is socially just and inclusive (Cunningham, 2014; Otto, 2019), it is important for both scholars and practitioners to grapple with these critical issues. Thus, we accept this responsibility with the intention of contributing to a growing body of emancipatory research in the field of sport management by examining intercollegiate sport facilities.

Literature Review

In alignment with their racist histories, many institutions of higher education have named structures on their campuses after individuals who were either slave owners, segregationists, and/or overtly racist individuals. For example, Middle Tennessee State University has a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program housed in a building named after Nathan Bedford Forrest, a notorious Confederate general, who was a prominent leader of the first Ku Klux Klan and who had no connection to the university (Catte, 2015). In addition to his name being placed on the Reserve Officers” Training Corps building, a statue in his honor was dedicated in 1905 and placed in a Memphis park. The city of Memphis was recently penalized for removing statutes of Forrest and Confederate president Jefferson Davis, as the state legislature removed $250,000 that had been earmarked for the city’s bicentennial event in protest of the decision (Horton, 2018). In terms of Forrest’s legend in Tennessee, state Representative Antonio Parkinson commented, “They act like Nathan Bedford Forrest is their God . . . What I see is a vicious, violent individual who made his fortunes out of the human slave trade” (as cited in Horton, 2018, para 13).

Campus Communities: Current Controversies and Movements

Middle Tennessee State University is not an isolated incident. Georgetown University had Mulledy Hall, a campus building named after a former university president who sold 272 enslaved Africans to a Louisiana plantation to pay off university debts in 1838, and McSherry Hall, a campus building named for the Georgetown official who assisted Mulledy with the slave sale (Cauterucci, 2015). The university decided to rename both halls, with Mulledy becoming Isaac Hawkins Hall and McSherry becoming Anne Marie Becraft Hall. Of note, Hawkins was one of the 272 enslaved Africans in the previously mentioned sale; his name appears first on the slave trade documentation. Becraft is the first African American woman to have a building named after her at Georgetown (Georgetown University, 2017). The University of Oregon had Dunn Hall, which was named after Frederick Dunn, a former Latin professor and chairman of the Latin department, who served as the leader of Eugene, Oregon’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan (Decklar, 2016). After several protests from students, faculty, and community members, the university unanimously voted to rename Dunn Hall as Unthank Hall; DeNorval Unthank was the first Black architecture graduate from the university’s architecture program (Field, 2017).

Yale had an undergraduate residential college named after John C. Calhoun, a man who once proclaimed that Black people were better suited for picking cotton than for studying at Yale (Kendi, 2016), and students at Princeton University have called for the removal of former U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs; Wilson oversaw the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government and was a vocal advocate for the Ku Klux Klan (Brait, 2015). In the case of Yale, which parallels many others previously mentioned, university administrators at first opted to highlight how the building represented a teaching tool and focal point around which conversations regarding race could take place (Kendi, 2016). These administrators argued that removing the names of these individuals would mean that they are hiding and/or downplaying the history of racial inequality in America. In addition, counterpetitions and protesters have argued that efforts to remove the names of individuals from university buildings create future precedence to criticize historical figures who “fail to live up to modern standards of morality” (Brait, 2015, para. 6) and that is one reason why Wilson’s name remains attached to the school. Wilson is not the only president whose morality has sparked debate, as petitions have circulated at the University of Missouri and William and Mary to remove statues of Thomas Jefferson (Jaschik, 2015; Williams, 2017). As has been the case in other situations, counterprotests are also occurring that advocate for statues of Jefferson to remain. Suzanne Seurattan, a spokesperson for William and Mary, commented, “Our point here has been, William and Mary is a place where we encourage civil discourse about challenging topics, including those about the university’s own history with respect to slavery” (as cited in Williams, 2017, para. 6).

In addition to the national student-led movements to remove racist structures from campuses/communities, colleges and universities are experiencing the resurgence of the student-athlete activist (Edwards, 2016). After a series of racial discrimination incidents, the University of Missouri football team joined protesters in advocating for then President Tim Wolfe to resign— which he did 2 days after football players joined the protesters (Arkin, Johnson, & Schuppe, 2015). Jackson (2016) commented that “many attribute the football team’s strike as the last straw that toppled Wolfe from his presidency” (para. 10). The University of Oklahoma’s (UO) football team staged a silent protest, in lieu of practice, after a video of the campus’ Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity reciting a racist chant became public (Candea, 2015). The men’s basketball team at Georgetown University wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts during the national anthem prior of their contest against Kansas, a reference to the last words of Eric Garner (Brennan, 2014). Kaufman’s (2008) analysis of athlete activism discovered that the majority of people feel “athletes should keep their social and political views separate from their athletic lives because sports and politics do not mix” (p. 234). Almost a decade later, it appears that student-athletes are continuing to use their power potential to champion their social and political views (Edwards, 2016).

Moving Forward: Social Activism Against Racism

It is important to note that the protests to separate university communities from individuals who owned slaves, were overtly racist, and/or supported segregation is occurring concurrently with a greater movement for racial equality in America. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement continues to challenge existing structures and systems of racial inequality. The BLM movement was created in 2012 as a response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the fatal shooting of Black teenager, Trayvon Martin (Garza, 2014). The fatal shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; Philando Castile in St. Paul, MN; and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, LA, as well as the chokehold that contributed to the death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY, have all served as critical events in the BLM movement. To that end, peaceful gatherings and protests have occurred throughout the country aimed at raising awareness of racial inequality in America. In response, BLM protests have spurred the All Lives Matter counterprotest from White people aimed at minimizing the thrust of BLM (Carney, 2016). One of the many aims of the BLM movement is that counter-protesters are seeking to minimize or silence altogether is the removal of all Confederate and racist monuments in the United States (Sinclair, 2017).

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that, in 2016, more than 1,500 Confederate symbols existed throughout the United States (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2017). Around half of those symbols were monuments and statues, with 150 having been dedicated during the 1950s–1960s civil rights movement or since the year 2000 (Struyk, 2017). Winberry (1983) discussed how Confederate monuments—which typically depict a soldier atop a column holding a weapon—serve as tributes to southern men that gave their lives or served during the Civil War. Over time, these monuments have become a gathering place for angry White individuals to display their resistance to racial integration (Davis, 1982). White groups that are resistant to integration are often referred to as hate groups (Chermak, Freilich, & Suttmoeller, 2013). The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that 917 hate groups exist in the United States (Southern Poverty Law Center, 2020). Included within that total number of 917 hate groups are 130 Ku Klux Klan, 100 White nationalist, and 43 Neo-Confederate groups—many of whom notably valorize White men with racist pasts (Zeskind, 2009).

Monuments, broadly conceptualized, have become a significant part of the southern cultural landscape and a symbol of southern pride among individuals with a strong Confederate and/or southern identity. The strong connection between Confederate monuments and the plantation system in the Deep South suggests that these monuments may be racist artifacts actively used as symbols today. Schedler (2001) wrote “a monument is racist when the symbols it employs, the individuals that it depicts, or the content of its inscriptions are racist” (p. 289). A national dialogue is currently taking place around these monuments, with many locations having made the decision to remove them (Bloch, McCarthy, Stack, & Andrews, 2017; Suerth, 2017). The recent removal of one particular monument a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA sadly led to violent protests and loss of a life (Astor, Caron, & Victor, 2017). Several southern states continue to celebrate their Confederate heritage, as evidenced by the fact that many of them observe an annual Confederate Memorial Day (Grinberg, 2018). The continued embrace and support of Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag has created several issues in contemporary American society that must be addressed (Martinez, Richardson, & McNinch-Su, 2001).

Theoretical Framework

We utilized critical race theory (CRT) and systemic racism theory (SRT) in conjunction with one another to better understand the issue of honoring individuals with racist pasts by naming sport facilities and other structures after them. Singer, Weems, and Garner (2017) opined that those two theories can be used in tandem, referring to them as “Fraternal Twins” to approach college sport issues in need of reform, as “both focus squarely on the interrogation of race, racism, and White supremacy in American social institutions” (p. 12). While CRT and SRT as analytic tools were born out of two distinct academic disciplines (i.e., critical legal studies and sociology, respectively), they each root themselves in the rich tradition of Black critical thought in the United States (Singer et al., 2017). It is perhaps more accurate to think of these frameworks as manifestations of the same intellectual foundation within two separate fields of inquiry. Yet, as each framework developed within their respective discipline, they generated relatively unique insights into the socioracial structure of the United States. We drew from both of these analytic tools together as this allowed for a richer understanding of the legacy of race and racism in the context of intercollegiate athletics in the United States.

Taylor (2009) defined CRT as an examination of the “unequal and unjust distribution of power and resources along political, economic, racial, and gendered lines” (p. 1). It centers around seven tenets: (a) the permanence of racism, (b) experiential knowledge, (c) interest convergence theory, (d) intersectionality, (e) Whiteness as property, (f) critique of liberalism, and (g) commitment to social justice (McCoy & Rodricks, 2015). The “permanence of racism” tenet is an acknowledgment that racism is an endemic and permanent aspect of People of Color’s experiences. The “experiential knowledge” tenet highlights how CRT scholars recognize People of Color’s lived experiences as valued, legitimate, appropriate, and critical to understanding, analyzing, and teaching about racial subordination. The “interest convergence” tenet is grounded on the premise that People of Color’s interest in achieving racial equality advances only when those interests “converge” with the interests of those in power.

Critical race scholars also recognize that racial categorizations intersect with other social structures (such as gender, class, religion, ability/disability, sexual orientation, etc.) and that this influences the lived experiences of individuals (Collins & Bilge, 2016; Dhamoon, 2011). Harris (1993) described “Whiteness as property” as the “assumptions, privileges, and benefits” (p. 1713) associated with identifying as White which are viewed as valuable assets that White people seek to protect. The “critique of liberalism” tenet centers on how critical race scholars are critical of and challenge the concepts of objectivity, meritocracy, color blindness, race neutrality, equal opportunity, and incremental change. The final tenet, “commitment to social justice,” notes that critical race scholars are committed to the establishment of a socially just American society and educational system and maintain a praxis of activism as a component of their scholarship (Bartlett & Brayboy, 2005).

Singer et al. (2017) described SRT as a framework that can be utilized to understand “how White-on-Black oppression in the USA has been at the center of the reproduction of White wealth, power, and privilege over several centuries, and how this oppression . . . has persisted and taken on many forms since the 1600s” (p. 22). Similar to CRT, there are several tenets of SRT. The primary tenet of interest here, however, is Feagin’s (2013) concept of the White Racial Frame (WRF). The WRF is a worldview comprised of a relatively stable set of racialized ideas, stereotypes, emotions, and inclinations to act (i.e., to discriminate). This frame of operation includes both conscious and unconscious understandings of race as a construct and has become commonplace as the rationalization tool of racial inequity in the United States. Typically espoused by White Americans, yet also adopted by many non-White Americans, this framing “includes negative stereotypes, images, and metaphors concerning African Americans and other Americans of color, as well as assertively positive views of whites and white institutions” (Feagin, 2013, p. 26). This positive view of White virtue, morality, and action has especially contributed to the glorification of White males, both throughout American history as well as in contemporary times. This is particularly the case in university settings where predominantly Black labor has been utilized to construct facilities named after these elite White men (Feagin, 2015).

The conceptual framework of the WRF is appropriate for this study as most athletic administrators are White males (Lapchick, 2019). Cunningham (2014) commented that “men, Whites, and heterosexuals lack such a personal stake (in regards to diversity issues); consequently, it is equally understandable, from this position, for them to not research diversity and social justice issues or advocate for equality in the workplace” (p. 1). Thus, it is possible that campus facilities are named after individuals with racist pasts because those in charge have historically been (and continue to be) White males who may not comprehend the gravity of the situation. Although CRT provides useful concepts for analyzing this phenomenon at large, it does not necessarily provide a framework for understanding why individuals may continue to rationalize these issues even in the face of public criticism. Therefore, we drew from SRT and its useful concepts in conjunction with insights offered from CRT to garner a deeper understanding of race and racism as embedded within the context of intercollegiate athletics (see Singer et al., 2017).

Method

We followed a collective case study research design for our exploration because it allowed us to look at one issue (the morality of naming facilities after individuals with racist pasts) through multiple cases/examples in a bounded context (i.e., college athletics; Creswell, 2013). Collective case studies are typically viewed as instrumental in nature as their focus tends to be on examining the cases mainly to provide insight into a broader issue or to redraw a generalization (Singer & Cunningham, 2018). Insight is provided through the purposeful selection of multiple cases that show different perspectives on the issues (Creswell, 2013). Stake (2005) noted that a collective case approach allows for multiple cases to be jointly studied with the aim of some characteristic ultimately being manifested that could lead to “better understanding, and perhaps better theorizing, about a still larger collection of cases” (p. 446). The primary purpose of this examination was to not only identify college basketball and football facilities that are named after individuals with racist pasts, but also to better understand how the racialized histories of those persons are similar to and/or distinct from each other. Furthermore, we will discuss the impact that continuing to honor those individuals may have on Black student-athletes and the Black campus community.

Data Collection

Per Creswell (2013) stated that, “data collection in case study research is typically extensive, drawing on multiple sources of information, such as observations, interviews, documents, and audiovisual materials” (p. 100). Yin (2014) recommends analyzing six types of information in case study research: archival records, direct observations, documentation, interviews, participant observation, and physical artifacts. To that end, our approach in this study involved analyzing archival records; documents; and physical artifacts (e.g., biographies, books, Internet articles, newspapers, research projects, and university athletic websites). The data collection process started with the creation of a shared Google Doc in which the research team listed the 130 Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) programs grouped into their conferences. Members of the research team were each randomly assigned blocks of teams—typically a specific division of a conference—which they were responsible for examining. Each researcher reviewed 30–50 programs. A decision was made to look at only football stadiums, basketball arenas, and related facilities (e.g., practice field/gym, football offices building, etc.) due to the significant number of Black student-athletes in football and men’s basketball (Lapchick, 2019). It should be emphasized that many college athletes who are women also use these facilities. However, we did not necessarily disentangle these issues and instead focused on facilities utilized by men’s athletic programs due to these programs generally being known as revenue producing sports. In addition, and building off of Cooke’s (2003) critique of management literature and its ignorance toward chattel slavery, analyzing football and men’s basketball facilities fits with Hawkins’ (2010) narrative that revenue producing college sports represent “the new plantation.” Future research, however, should further examine the gendered and intersectional implications related to this study.

Examination of the previously mentioned athletic facilities involved researching the personal backgrounds of the individuals who the buildings were named after. Data were found by utilizing Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost, Google, Google Scholar, and university library searches. Our searches included entering the honoree’s name and then typing keywords associated with CRT and SRT such as “confederacy,” “controversy,” “racism,” “racist,” “slavery,” “segregation,” etc. Search results were then read to determine if the honoree had a questionable racist past/present. As members of the research team researched their assigned institutions, they would add pertinent information under the school in bulleted form in a shared Google Doc. For example, as noted previously, the UF’s men’s basketball arena is named after Stephen C. O’Connell, a former university president who once voted against integrating the law school and presided over “Black Thursday” (Kendi, 2016). In the Google Doc, bulleted information about the men’s basketball arena, O’Connell, and the source material were inserted under the UF—this allowed members of the research team to see what one another had found and to check the source material from which the information had been extracted. Furthermore, this enabled the research team to seek assistance/clarification from one another throughout the data collection process.

Data Analysis

Data were analyzed in accordance with Yin’s (2014) guidelines for analyzing case study evidence, or data. As noted by Yin, data analysis for case studies “depends on a researcher’s own style of rigorous empirical thinking, along with the sufficient presentation of the evidence and careful consideration of alternative interpretations” (p. 133). Yin’s first step involves “playing” with the data in an effort to identify concepts, insights, and/or patterns that seem promising. To “play” with our data, all evidence was copy-and-pasted from our Google Doc into a Microsoft Excel file—this afforded us the opportunity to manipulate the evidence through the construction of a matrix and the tabulation of frequently occurring events/incidences (Miles & Huberman, 1994). In terms of our matrix, each row represented an honoree/facility, and there were seven columns to complete for each entry: university, honoree, facility’s name, sport(s) played in facility, personal background synopsis, keywords (taken from synopsis [e.g., “confederacy,” “segregation,” “workplace,” etc.]), and references used in created synopsis. Reoccurring events/incidences were identified though reviewing memos or the keywords that were made during the initial recording of evidence, as well as the subsequent transfer of evidence into the Excel file. As Birks, Chapman, and Francis (2008) stated, “memoing serves to assist the researcher in making conceptual leaps from raw data to those abstractions that explain research phenomena in the context in which it is examined” (p. 68). Memoing allows researchers to reflect on their research practices, while also understanding the role they play in producing knowledge (Cronin, 2012). The research team used memos as a way to map our research activities, extract meaning from our data, maintain momentum during analysis, and open/invite communication among members of the research team (Birks et al., 2008).

Having strategized a way to understand what our evidence was saying, we utilized a cross-case synthesis (Yin, 2014) technique to analyze our data. The cross-case synthesis technique allows for the analysis of multiple cases and produces findings that are “likely to be more robust than having only a single case” (Yin, 2014, p. 164). Cross-case syntheses are ideal in situations where individual case studies have been conducted by different authors, which fit our design (where each case was individually examined by a member of the research team). Through using the cross-case synthesis technique, we were able to aggregate our findings from across the individual cases via keyword tables (Yin, 2014). Keyword tables display data from individual cases according to categories—in this case our categories were developed from the reoccurring events/incidences that were identified when playing with the data. Categories that aligned with one another through matching keywords were then grouped together to form themes. Furthermore, themes were developed through asking questions—which Yin noted as a typical starting point for case study data analysis. The research team consistently considered, “How does our evidence align with the tenets of CRT and/or SRT?”

Results

After extensively researching the individuals associated with football and men’s basketball facilities at all FBS institutions, the research team identified 18 facilities that were named after individuals with racist pasts (see Table 1). Considering the difficulties associated with locating potentially negative information on facilities honorees, it is conceivable that more facilities have questionable namesakes. The disbursement of those facilities that we were able to identify included twelve stadium/practice facilities for football programs and seven arenas for men’s basketball. From these facilities, they represented seven different conferences across the nation, Southeastern Conference (N = 9), Big 12 Conference (N = 3), Atlantic Coast Conference (N = 2), American Athletic Conference (N = 1), Big Ten Conference (N = 1), Conference USA (N = 1), and Pacific-12 Conference (N = 1). Overall, there were four key transgressions that emerged from the identified facilities: “Theme 1: Racism toward Individuals,” “Theme 2: Racism toward Student-Athletes,” “Theme 3: Racism in the Workplace,” and “Theme 4: Racism through Confederate Ties.”

Table 1

Facilities Named After Honorees With Questionable Racist Pasts

HonoreeUniversityFacility/spaceTheme
Phog AllenKansas UniversityAllen FieldhouseRacism toward Individuals of Color
Paul “Bear” BryantUniversity of AlabamaBryant–Denny StadiumRacism toward Student-Athletes
Harold “Red” DrewUniversity of AlabamaThomas–Drew Practice FieldsRacism toward Student-Athletes
Pat DyeAuburn UniversityPat Dye FieldRacism toward Student-Athletes
Don FaurotUniversity of MissouriFaurot FieldRacism toward Student-Athletes
Ed GaylordUniversity of OklahomaGaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial StadiumRacism in the Workplace
Armory “Slats” GillOregon State UniversityGill ColiseumRacism toward Student-Athletes
Edwin Jackson KyleTexas A&M UniversityKyle FieldRacism through Confederate Ties
Guy “Red” MackeyPurdue UniversityMackey ArenaRacism toward Individuals of Color
William Lewis Moody Jr.Southern Methodist UniversityMoody ColiseumRacism through Confederate Ties
Robert NeylandUniversity of TennesseeNeyland StadiumRacism toward Student-Athletes
Stephen C. O’ConnellUniversity of FloridaStephen C. O’Connell CenterRacism toward Individuals of Color
Pratt & WhitneyUniversity of ConnecticutPratt & Whitney StadiumRacism in the Workplace
Jerry RichardsonUniversity of North Carolina—CharlotteJerry Richardson StadiumRacism in the Workplace
Darrell K. RoyalUniversity of TexasDarrell K Royal–Texas Memorial StadiumRacism toward Student-Athletes
Adolph RuppUniversity of KentuckyRupp ArenaRacism toward Student-Athletes
John VaughtUniversity of MississippiVaught–Hemingway StadiumRacism toward Student-Athletes
Thomas YawkeyBoston CollegeYawkey Athletics CenterRacism toward Individuals of Color

Theme 1: Racism Toward Individuals

The theme of “Racism toward Individuals” focused on facilities that were named after individuals who had chronicled incidences of racial prejudice, though not toward their own players or workers. As highlighted previously, UF’s decision to name their arena after Stephen C. O’Connell has been scrutinized due to his storied racist past. O’Connell was the first UF graduate to become university president, a role he assumed after his career as a lawyer. In 1957, at which point he was a state legislator, he voted to keep the UF’s Law School segregated (Kendi, 2016). In 1971, at which point he was UF’s president, Black students demanded that O’Connell institute a number of initiatives and programs to improve the Black student experience on-campus, which included a peaceful sit-in protest advocating for a Black Cultural Center. O’Connell had 67 Black students and teachers arrested for occupying his office and refused to grant them amnesty, which ultimately led to over 125 Black students and teachers leaving the university in an exodus that became known as “Black Thursday” (Times Staff Writer, 1971).

Similar to O’Connell’s issues with the Black general student body at UF, Phog Allen clashed with the Black community at Kansas University (KU). Allen, considered one of the best coaches in college basketball history, won 24 conference championships and three national titles during his 39-year coaching career at KU. His success led to KU naming their basketball facility, Allen Fieldhouse, after him. However, his time at KU involved creating racial disharmony on campus. At the start of his tenure as KU’s basketball coach, the campus was a desegregated space. Controversially, Allen was one of the key individuals who worked to reverse the campus climate, as he and others desired a more segregated space (McCusker, 1994). This segregation on campus included bathrooms, pools, and student restaurants. The move by KU, spearheaded by Allen, created backlash from the Black community and led to widespread student protests and many faculty members left the institution.

The issues encountered by Allen and O’Connell represent macro/university-wide events, but it is important to remember that “Racism toward Individuals” occurs at the micro/individual level as well. One example of an isolated incident involved former Purdue University Athletic Director Guy “Red” Mackey. Mackey spent over 40 years at Purdue holding multiple administration positions at the school; he also served in a few coaching roles. To posthumously honor his years of service, Purdue renamed their arena, Mackey Arena, after him in 1972. Klink (2014) highlighted an incident between Mackey and a Purdue cheerleader that is worth noting. During the last football game of the 1968 season, a Black cheerleader raised her fist while the national anthem was playing—a move inspired by the remarkable accomplishments of John Carlos and Tommie Smith the previous summer. Her gesture garnered significant media attention and increased the interest that was paid to the cheerleader during the first basketball game that winter, where she again raised her fist. From here, Mackey (who was the athletic director at the time) made the decision to remove her from the team and to not allow the cheerleaders on the court during the national anthem.

The last individual that fits within this theme is Thomas Yawkey. In 2005, Boston College named their football offices building, Yawkey Center, after receiving a substantial gift from the former owner of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. His philanthropic efforts can be seen all over Boston; however, he was known for his racist beliefs. As owner of the Red Sox, Yawkey refused to recruit Black players even as the league started to integrate (Stout & Johnson, 2000). It was not until the 1959 season, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, that the Red Sox signed their first Black player. Robinson once called Yawkey, “one of the most bigoted guys in baseball” (Stout, 2004, p. 242). Yawkey’s past prompted the Red Sox to rename “Yawkey Way,” a street running adjacent to Fenway Park, to “Jersey Street” (Lucas, 2018). Also of importance, there are reports that Yawkey knew about and covered up the systemic sexual abuse of at least a dozen young African American boys by former club manager, Donald Fitzpatrick (Passan, 2011).

Theme 2: Racism Toward Student-Athletes

The theme of “Racism toward Student-Athletes” focused on facilities that were named after individuals who had chronicled incidences of racial prejudice toward players on their own or opposing teams, mostly in terms of recruiting or threatening to cancel athletic contests. For instance, Auburn University decided to name the field at Jordan Hare stadium after Pat Dye, a former Auburn athletic administrator and coach. While Dye accomplished a great deal at Auburn, he will forever be remembered for the embarrassing scandal that rocked the Auburn football team and campus in 1993. Eric Ramsey, a player on the Auburn football team, tape recorded Dye, other staff members, and boosters giving him compensation for his play. The tapes revealed an environment built by Dye that was negatively affecting Black student-athletes. Ramsey even wrote a term paper during his time at Auburn highlighting the negative treatment of Black football players, including disapproval of interracial dating in the community and segregation of Black and White players in the resident athletic dorm, by the coaching staff (Maxie, 1991; Rhoden, 2010).

Recruiting

Historically, racist recruiting practices were adopted by countless coaches and institutions; examples of such coaches include Bear Bryant, Armory Gill, Darrell Royal, Adolph Rupp, and John Vaught. Rupp coached the University of Kentucky (UK) men’s basketball team from 1930 to 1972. In recognition of his highly successful coaching career, UK honored him by naming the men’s basketball arena, Rupp Arena. While he was known for his winning basketball teams, Rupp was overtly racist in his beliefs and spoken views. During his tenure as head coach, he refused to recruit the best high school basketball player in the country, Connie Hawkins, because he was Black. Rupp even vowed that a Black player would never play basketball at Kentucky (Chudacoff, 2015). During the 1966 national championship game against Texas Western, Rupp called for his team to beat the “coons.” After losing the game, he refused to shake hands with the players and coaches from Texas Western—though he did recruit his first Black player the following year.

Similar to Rupp, Darrell Royal engaged in racist recruiting rhetoric and techniques while serving as the head football coach at the University of Texas. While most University of Texas athletic teams integrated in 1964, it would take an additional 6 years until the football team integrated and had its first Black student-athlete, Julius Whittier, join the team in 1970. Many argue that Royal’s retirement in 1976 was based on his inability to recruit Black student-athletes because of the popular opinion that he was a racist (Cobb & Rodriguez, 1996). Those beliefs included his view that hiring a Black coach would destroy the family atmosphere and club harmony that he desired to cultivate on his football team. In addition, it was reported that Royal hurled racial insults at Syracuse football players during a 1960 contest (Vertuno, 2012). In 1996, University of Texas officially named their stadium, Darrell K Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium, after Royal.

Similar to Royal, Armory “Slats” Gill, a former Oregon State University basketball coach, struggled to recruit Black student-athletes to his teams during his 36-year tenure (Associated Press, 2017). Two Black players Gill tried to recruit in the early 1960s were Norm Monroe, who only practiced for part of a season before leaving the team, and Charlie White, who became the team’s first Black scholarship player; the year after Gill retired as basketball coach. Gill was quoted saying, “I wish that these people who are making such charges would help us get a Negro on our basketball team that would measure up to our current players” (Associated Press, 2017, para. 8). Due to student protests, Oregon State University has conducted extensive research on the past exploits of Gill to determine if his name should be associated with the arena, Gill Coliseum, and found no evidence of racism; however, the report does not deny or admit any guilt (Associated Press, 2017).

Another controversial figure with a questionable racist past was Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama. Bryant is considered one of the best football coaches in the modern era, as he led Alabama to six national titles over a 25-year span. Upon his retirement, the University of Alabama named their football stadium, Bryant–Denny Stadium, after him. While a legend at Alabama, many historians believe that Bryant was covertly racist (Richman, 2017). Bryant claimed that he did not recruit Black players due to climate issues in the community. However, the tides changed for the University of Alabama and Bryant when they were dominated in the 1970 title game by the University of Southern California, a team comprised of many Black student-athletes. This led to the community becoming more open to the recruitment of Black student-athletes (interest convergence; McCoy & Rodricks 2015), and by 1973, one-third of Alabama football players were Black (Sims, 2013). Although there is evidence that he wanted to recruit Black players to Alabama, Sims summed the criticisms best saying “In the end, Bryant did play the role of Rickey in the SEC—but only after taking ‘no’ for an answer for more than two decades” (para. 29).

Mississippi, similar to its neighbor to the east (Alabama), has historically dealt with racial unrest. Bianchi (2015) noted that the state flagship, the University of Mississippi (aka “Ole Miss”), is known for its racist past during the same era, the 1950s–1970s. Whether it be through singing Dixie (unofficial Confederate song), flying Confederate flags, or using bigotry chanted in the football stadium, Ole Miss has a well-chronicled racist past. It was during this timeframe that John Vaught turned Mississippi into a national college football powerhouse. His successes were honored through Ole Miss’s decision to rename their football stadium, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, after him. Of note, Vaught repeatedly stated that he would never recruit Black student-athletes to Ole Miss (Hale, 2006). Similar to Bryant, some historians believe this could be based on the climate in Mississippi at the time. However, we also acknowledge the role coaches often play not only in participating in the climate of their time, but often in shaping these climates due to their influential status as organizational leaders (e.g., see Chelladurai, 1990; Kellett, 1999). Furthermore, several CRT and SRT scholars have noted the potential for college coaches to actively shape and maintain racist practices through their operative role(s) in athletic programs (Gill, 2011; Regan, Carter-Francique, & Feagin, 2014; Singer, 2005b). Thus, in addition to the broader context in which these coaches worked, it is important to emphasize the active roles they played in shaping racist recruitment practices.

Threating/cancelation of games

Throughout the mid-twentieth century, several athletic contests and events were either canceled, protested, or threatened due to racial issues in college sports. For example, from 1947 to 1954 at the University of Alabama, it was uncovered that there was a “gentleman’s agreement” with other teams that stated they would not play games when Black student-athletes were involved (Schexnayder, 2013). This agreement was maintained by Harold “Red” Drew, a three-sport coach at the University of Alabama whose name is currently attached to the football practice facilities, Thomas-Drew Practice Fields. The University of Missouri engaged in similar practices under then-coach Don Faurot. During his time at Missouri, Faurot threatened to cancel a game against Kansas State because they had a Black student-athlete (Kirkendall, 1986). Faurot was also known for his resistance to desegregate the football team at Missouri and was a strong supporter for the policy at Missouri that stated all student-athletes must be White (Kirkendall, 1986). In 1972, the university named their football field, Faurot Field, in Memorial Stadium after him.

At Georgia Tech, the basketball arena was named Alexander Memorial Coliseum after a former athletic administrator and coach, Bill Alexander. During the 1934 season, Alexander’s football team refused to take the field against Michigan due to the fact that Michigan had a Black student-athlete by the name of Willis Ward (Van Brimm, 2011). The game was never played, as Michigan relented due to concerns over Ward’s safety and as a courtesy to Georgia Tech. As was the case at Georgia Tech, former University of Tennessee football coach and administrator Robert Neyland faced a similar situation. In 1961, Neyland canceled a track meet because an opponent was going to let a Black student-athlete compete (Epling, 1994). His decision to cancel the event eventually led to him stepping down from his position in 1962. In addition, Neyland was also involved in an altercation with a Black student, Avon Rollins, in which he verbally abused the student for his inquiry into trying out for the basketball team at Tennessee (Epling, 1994). In recognition of his 36 years of service, Tennessee named their football stadium, Neyland Stadium, posthumously after Robert.

Theme 3: Racism in the Workplace

The theme of “Racism in the Workplace” focused on facilities that were named after individuals (e.g., Jerry Richardson and Ed Gaylord)—and one corporation (e.g., Pratt & Whitney)—that had chronicled incidences of racial prejudice in their business dealings. Jerry Richardson was the first owner and founder of the National Football League’s Carolina Panthers. As part of his philanthropic efforts, he donated $10 million to the University of North Carolina—Charlotte to help the school complete the construction of their new football stadium (Spanberg, 2013). In recognition of his donation, the University of North Carolina—Charlotte named their facility, McColl–Richardson Field at Jerry Richardson Stadium, after him. During his time as owner of the Panthers, Richardson was involved in several legal disputes focused on workplace misconduct, sexual assault, sexual misconduct, and racist remarks (Bembry, 2017). In terms of the racist remarks, Richardson was documented during a predraft meeting using derogatory comments toward at a Black scout, which led the scout to file a lawsuit; the case was settled out of court (Wertheim & Bernstein, 2017).

Ed Gaylord and his family owned The Oklahoman newspaper. Due to the Gaylord family’s continued financial giving to the UO, a decision was made to rename the football stadium, Gaylord Family—Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, to honor of the family. Selcraig (1999) argued that The Oklahoman newspaper has a racist past, including the discouragement of Ed Gaylord to hire Black reporters, along with a report from a former staffer in the 1970s who stated, “The rule was you didn’t run pictures of blacks on the front page” (p. 48). The Oklahoma City Observer, a local rival newspaper, has also been quoted stating, “The paper (The Oklahoman) has been quietly and effectively racist in all its long history” (Selcraig, 1999, p. 48).

Pratt & Whitney is an aerospace manufacturer that produces plane engines. The company, which is headquartered in Connecticut, reached a deal with the University of Connecticut to secure the naming rights to the school’s football stadium, Pratt & Whitney Stadium. According to Schirmer (2016), racial discrimination and policies were institutionalized at the company’s Kansas City location. Over a period of time, Black employees were given fake conflict issues, leading to a distasteful and unbearable work environment for Black employees at Pratt & Whitney in Kansas City. Essentially, false reports were filed with the intention of preventing Black employees from having opportunities to move up into management positions. University of Connecticut was either unaware of these issues (meaning they did not do their due diligence in vetting who they named their stadium after) or they opted to look past these issues for financial gain. Either of these scenarios present problems from an SRT perspective as these forms of payments to universities (i.e., donations, sponsorships, etc.) are one of the primary avenues through which White elites augment their otherwise unjust legacies on college campuses (Feagin & Ducey, 2017).

Theme 4: Racism Through Confederate Ties

The theme of “Racism through Confederate Ties” focused on facilities that were named after individuals with strong connections to a Confederate, racist past. This historical background is one of the more difficult to find (partial explanation for one paragraph thematic section), as the connecting points between an honoree and his ancestors’ beliefs/source of their financial wealth is difficult to ascertain in most cases. Two, Texas-based, locations were identified that fit with this theme: Kyle Field at Texas A&M University and Moody Coliseum at Southern Methodist University. Both facilities were named after sons of Confederate Army captains. William Lewis Moody Jr., the son of Colonel William Lewis Moody Sr., used money made from the Confederacy to open up Moody National Bank outside of Galveston, TX (Butler, 2017). Southern Methodist University renamed their basketball coliseum in memory of Moody in 1965. Kyle Field, Texas A&M University’s football stadium, derives its name from Edwin Jackson Kyle, a son of Captain Fergus Kyle of the Confederate Army, who stayed politically active in Texas until his death in 1906. Captain Kyle was often seen wearing his Confederate uniform on special occasions throughout his life (Althaus, n.d.), which may imply that he was a South sympathizer. Considering recent protest by Aggie student-athletes to remove the statue of Confederate General Lawrence Sullivan Ross from their campus (Young, 2020), the inclusion of Kyle’s name on the facility merits further discussion.

Discussion

The results of this cross-case synthesis show that sport facilities, similar to nonathletic spaces, on college campuses have been named after individuals with racist pasts. This phenomenon fits within the CRT “permanence of racism” tenet, as it represents institutional-level racism “where policies, processes, and practices geared toward White interests have been permanently ingrained in American society and the cultures and structures of institutions within it” (Singer et al., 2017, p. 19). The athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists who have been honored at some universities have a past that merits discussion as to “what are we really promoting, and do we know why we are doing it?” (Zeigler, 2007, p. 301). Although some of the honorees have distinguished military careers, are collegiate sport hall of fame members, and/or are viewed as all-time greats within their professions, their racist actions and ideologies should not be so easily dismissed or forgotten.

What Are We Really Promoting?

From a SRT perspective, maintaining the status quo—keeping the names of those individuals on buildings without an honest discussion of their racist pasts—reproduces the positive framing of White people and White institutions (Feagin & Ducey, 2017). Doing so also continues to unjustly enrich the modern view of a group of White individuals who contributed to the systemic disenfranchisement of Black individuals. Unknowingly (or knowingly), sport administrators, coaches, players, and fans may be honoring individuals who promoted segregation/resegregation, removed Black activists from their teams, refused to play against teams that had Black players, refused to recruit Black players, and/or discriminated in their business practices. Given the prominent role this honoring has in rationalizing unjust legacies (see Feagin & Ducey, 2017), the process of donating to universities in exchange for naming rights warrants measures that hold both universities and interested parties accountable. It is paradoxical that some Black student-athletes are playing basketball or football in/on athletic spaces named after individuals who would not have recruited them onto their teams or valued them as part of the campus community. Thus, one clear future social justice direction identified in this study is the need to better educate all relevant stakeholders as to the past histories of the honorees. As evidenced by where our data were found, universities do not share the negative pasts of their honorees on the official biography pages of their athletics website. Although this is a complicated and multilayered task in itself, new media outlets (e.g., social media) offer athletic programs creative avenues to share information directly with their fan bases. While some athletic departments might be apprehensive to share this type of information with their immediate stakeholders, they can also leverage this push as a more legitimate form of corporate social responsibility (see Weems, Garner, Oshiro, & Singer, 2017). Athletic departments may even adopt this as a strategic initiative, as sport management research has shown that effective communication of corporate social responsibility practices may even have a positive impact on patronage intentions (Walker & Kent, 2009). Keeping in mind the transformative emphasis in both CRT and SRT, scholars have also noted how the communication of corporate social responsibility practices by sport organizations can contribute to social change at large (Stinson & Pritchard, 2014). Nevertheless, sport scholars and practitioners have a moral and ethical responsibility to grapple with these issues in a more legitimate fashion (Cunningham, 2014; Otto, 2019; Weems et al., 2017; Zeigler, 2007).

In alignment with the WRF (Feagin, 2013), we argue that naming athletic facilities after White individuals with racist pasts creates a skewed, positive view of those individuals. The WRF “is housed within a strong pro-White subframe, which views Whites as virtuous” (Singer et al., 2017, p. 24). Universities are glorifying past athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists who engaged in/espoused racist activities and views when they put that person’s name on a building. Attempting to rationalize away the actions or views of these athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists as just “acceptable at that time in history” serves as an excuse that absolves that person of the consequences of their actions while simultaneously minimizing resistances by Black people. Although there were several instances where coaches eventually relented and recruited Black players or shifted their ideological views during their career, the fact remains that they committed racist acts or held prejudicial views at one point. Also important to remember, they mostly relented not because it was the right thing, but because they wanted to win and were losing out on a portion of potential recruits that their competitors were not. Thus, we argue that universities should be forthcoming about each individual’s entire career, rather than just selectively highlighting a person’s positive credentials and traits—a key function of the WRF. Sharing an individual’s negative past does not necessarily mean that the honoree should or will have their name removed. Instead, doing so creates an opportunity for honest dialogue to occur among the campus community as to whether it is appropriate to continue honoring that person.

In terms of that appropriateness, understanding how this issue impacts Black individuals is important. Ozioma Obi-Onuoha, a Black student at Princeton, stated “As a student at a predominantly white institution, feeling as though I have to convince people of discrimination and fight to be seen as human is tiring and frustrating” (as cited in Brait, 2015, para 15). Obi-Onuoha is one of several Princeton students who have argued for the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name from the School of Public and International Affairs. Listening to his views, as well as those of other Black students, aligns with the CRT tenet of experiential knowledge. University officials should recognize and value the impact that naming sport spaces after individuals with racist pasts might have on their Black student-athletes. For example, how might football players at the University of Tennessee feel if they learned that their football stadium was named after a man who canceled athletic contests when opposing teams brought Black players to campus? It might upset them to know that their university would name a facility after such a person. Thus, future research should also examine how athletes themselves understand, rationalize, and/or resist the naming of these spaces after individuals with racist pasts.

Perhaps the reason that no one questions the pasts of the honorees is due to the “Whiteness as property” tenet of CRT. This tenet argues that being “White” imparts certain assumptions and benefits to those individuals (Harris, 1993). In this case, being “White” protects the honorees from critical examination, as it may be assumed as it is reinforced by other members of the campus community that these individuals are respectable because “they must have been a great person to have a building named after them.” This presumed assumption, from a CRT standpoint, would be combatted via the “critique of liberalism” tenet. As noted by Singer et al. (2017), this tenet rejects “the notion that race and racism is declining in significance, and argue that the notions of color blindness, meritocracy, and objectivity often obscure the unearned and unjust power, privileges, and advantages many Whites have gained and maintained throughout history” (p. 20). Color blindness and the belief that America is a meritocracy are factors that may contribute to the lack of critical examination of the honorees, as members of society reason that the honorees most likely did not have any significant faults. This perspective is corroborated by the social psychological function of the WRF.

What Can/Should Be Done?

Our findings fit within the nationwide movement that is currently occurring on college campuses to remove names and symbolism that could be construed as racist. This is a critical issue for the field of sport management specifically, as several scholars have issued challenges to ensure that sport honors the rights of all participants, and not just White men (see Cunningham, 2014, 2019; Otto, 2019). Thus, the challenges and opposition from that context, as well as the selected next steps, should be considered when discussing the naming of college athletic facilities after individuals with racist pasts. The counterprotest movement against the removal of Woodrow Wilson’s name at Princeton has argued removing the names of individuals from university buildings creates future precedence to criticize historical figures who “fail to live up to modern standards of morality” (Brait, 2015, para. 6). This counterargument deserves attention in the context of this study. Stated another way, university officials and the campus community need to consider whether it is appropriate to judge past athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists by today’s standards of morality—while also remembering that their actions were inappropriate when they engaged in them during their time. For example, as Schexnayder (2013) noted, several athletic administrators would not play games when opposing programs intended to play their Black student-athletes. This prejudicial stance was held by enough administrators that it could be argued that “the norm” at historically White institutions in the 1950s–1970s south was to cancel games when opposing teams intended to play Black student-athletes. Thus, at least with this example, the athletic administrators identified in this study were acting in accordance with what their peers were doing. Still, there is a moral and ethical obligation for sport managers to grapple with these issues more critically (Otto, 2019).

The national response to buildings and statues that are considered racist has, in most instances, been to remove them. The University of Oregon, Georgetown University, and Yale University all renamed buildings on their campuses that had previously been aligned with an individual who had a racist past (Cauterucci, 2015; Field, 2017; Kendi, 2016). Interestingly, each building was subsequently renamed after a non-White man: Becraft Hall at Georgetown (Becraft is the first Black woman to have a building at GU named after her), Grace Hopper College at Yale (Hopper was a decorated Yale graduate with significant contributions in the fields of mathematics and computer science), Hawkins Hall at Georgetown, and Unthank Hall at Oregon (Unthank was the first Black UO architecture program graduate). The decision of university officials to honor a Black individual through the renaming process represents an apologetic stance and a commitment to valuing racial diversity and inclusion at an institutional level. As Wilder stated, “It is difficult to celebrate diversity while standing in front of buildings that are named after slave traders” (as quoted in Lee, 2015, para. 2). Thus, it appears a template for celebrating diversity has been established whereby institutions replace the name of an individual with a racist past to one that honors a marginalized (e.g., female, racial minority) person with connections to that institution. A sport parallel would be to discuss renaming the facilities identified in this study after Black athletic administrators, coaches, student-athletes, or other relevant stakeholders who have significantly contributed to the institution. Our intention here is not to suggest that this type of renaming adequately addresses issues of race and racism in intercollegiate athletics. Indeed, CRT’s critique of liberalism suggests that this approach may be used to mask larger, structural issues. However, we also understand the dialectic nature of social justice and therefore acknowledge that renaming is one avenue which sport managers have the moral responsibility to consider. The unchallenged naming of these facilities after individuals with racist pasts continues to serve as a highly visible representation of structural racism in the United States.

Removing or renaming physical structures is just one step toward truly grappling with the legacy of White racism and dismantling structural racism in the intercollegiate athletics context. We cannot erase our past, nor would that necessarily push the field of sport management in a more equitable and socially just direction by itself. Instead, scholars who study sport at the intersection of management, diversity, and social justice should continue to examine these issues paying special attention to the foundational nature of the problems at hand (e.g., see Hayek et al., 2010). Working collaboratively with scholars across academic disciplines is one small step that sport management scholars can take toward addressing intergenerational issues such as racism in intercollegiate athletics. According to Doherty (2012), this interdisciplinary approach is an effective way for sport management scholars to potentially address the types of problems brought to the forefront in this study. While we may not necessarily have the tools as sport management scholars to adequately address these issues on our own, we could potentially find innovative solutions that go beyond removing or renaming physical structures. For example, the works of critical management scholars such as Cooke (2003) and Hayek et al. (2010) provide a foundation for sport management scholars to better understand the foundational role of institutions like chattel slavery in shaping contemporary managerial practices in sport. Through interdisciplinary work, the field of sport management could effectively work toward (re)educating sport stakeholders about these critical issues and blossom into a more just sporting landscape. Furthermore, educating current sport management students on the tangible legacy of systemic racism in intercollegiate athletics could better prepare them to lead future efforts for adequately addressing racism in sport organizations more broadly.

This issue is also interesting to contemplate in lieu of the recent reemergence of the student-athlete activist. Informing student-athletes of the prejudicial views and discriminatory behaviors of facility honorees may lead to players taking action. As evidenced by the University of Missouri football players threatening to boycott a game, the UO football team joining protests to remove a racist fraternity from campus, and the men’s basketball team at Georgetown University wearing “I can’t breathe” warm-up shirts (Brennan, 2014; Candea, 2015; Jackson, 2016), student-athletes are using their voices to speak out against racial discrimination on their campuses and across the country. To that end, learning that their basketball arena, football field/stadium, or support facilities are named after individuals who were racist toward Black individuals, student-athletes, or employees in their businesses may cause them to advocate for positive social change in those sport spaces. Following Schedler’s (2001) logic on what a makes a monument racist—“a monument is racist when the symbols it employs, the individuals that it depicts, or the content of its inscriptions are racist” (p. 289)—if Black students, both athletes and nonathletes, believe the facility name honoree to have been a racist, they most likely would subsequently view a facility named after them as racist.

Conclusion

The purpose of this study was to identify FBS basketball and football facilities that are named after individuals with racist pasts to better understand how these buildings and spaces are similar to and/or distinct from each other. Widespread protests against facilities, monuments, statues, and plaques honoring individuals with racist pasts make this examination of athletic facilities both relevant and timely. Set within this broader social context, sport managers have moral, ethical, and often legal responsibilities to pay attention to these issues (Cunningham, 2014, 2019; Otto, 2019). Using a collective case study approach, our examination of all FBS basketball and football facilities revealed 18 structures that have been named after athletic administrators, coaches, and philanthropists with questionable racist pasts. Using CRT and SRT as our theoretical lenses, we argued that naming these buildings after racist men legitimizes their legacies, rationalizes systemic racism, and continues to unjustly enrich this particular group. To that end, our position is that university officials should engage their campus communities in a dialogue around whether they are truly celebrating and valuing racial diversity and inclusion when the name associated with a sport venue has a questionable racist past.

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If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Turick is with Ball State University, Muncie, IN, USA. Weems is with Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, USA. Swim is with the University of Louisville, Louisville, KY, USA. Bopp is with the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA. Singer is with Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.

Turick (rmturick@bsu.edu) is corresponding author.
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